The 6 types of fire, their characteristics and their appearance

Since the most ancient times, fire has always been as much an object of veneration as of fear and fear. This double vision of flames comes from the fact that we are aware that fire is an element capable of destroying, but also that it has facilitated our survival by allowing us to light, heat, cook and defend ourselves from animals and enemies.

But not all fires are the same, but there are different classifications the types of fires that we may encounter. It is this diversity of typologies that we will talk about throughout this article.

    Fire: what is it and how is it generated?

    Before getting into specifying the types of fire that exist, it may be helpful to stop and think about what fire is and how it is generated. Fire, rather than an element in itself, is the manifestation of a process or chemical reaction of combustion that occurs violently and more or less quickly.

    It is an oxidation process at the exothermic level wherein a material oxidizes at such a rate as to cause the transmission of light and thermal energy, allowing flames to appear as a product of burning gas.

    For a flame to form, it must exist and receive a number of factors otherwise combustion could not have occurred. First, a fuel or material capable of igniting under certain circumstances is needed, which will act as a reducing agent.

    In addition to this, another of the essential requirements is an oxidizer or a material / element capable of causing combustion (the most common is oxygen). In this sense, the oxidant will act as an oxidizing agent

    The third element, of great importance, is the presence of a certain type of energy which allows combustion to start, such as thermal energy generated by friction. Finally, the reaction must be chained to maintain itself, otherwise the fire would be extinguished. Flames and fire can be different shades and colors and have different behaviors depending on which elements serve as oxidizer and fuel.

    Classification of fire types according to fuel type

    One of the most common, and indeed the most accepted and official in the world, of classifying the different types of fire is that which takes as a criterion of differentiation the type of fuel involved in the reaction. In this sense, it is divided into five main classes, although it has sometimes been considered a sixth.

    Class A

    They are known as Class A fire for this whole combustion reaction which it comes from a solid fuel, and often of organic type. This is the type of fire we make in bonfires or those caused in forests or living tissue. They can also result from the burning of plastics. It is possible to extinguish with water, either by jet or by spraying, although other methods such as dry powder or carbon dioxide can also be used.

      class B

      Class B fires are types of fires that result from the combustion of liquids with flammable capacity or solids with the capacity to liquefy. This is the type of fire that occurs when alcohol, gasoline, wax or paint is burned, among others. In this sense, the fire of the old candles or lanterns would belong to this group. Its extinction requires dry powder, Although water spray or CO2 can also be used.

      class C

      Class C fires are considered to be all types of fires that are the product of the combustion of gases at high temperatures, such as those used in electrical appliances or in the kitchen. Thus, the combustion of methane or natural gas would produce this type of fire, which it usually appears faster than in the case of the above. Reactions of this type require dry powder to quench.

      class D

      Class D, in terms of types of fire, refers to combustion reactions in which the fuel is a flammable type of metal or metal dust. Examples of this are caused by magnesium. They should not be soaked with water because the reaction is extremely virulent, but should use special powder extinguishers.

      Class F or K fires

      The latter type of fire is a bit special, as it refers to the fire ignited in front of fuel in the form of oil or grease, which is used in kitchen equipment. In Europe it was called class F fire, and in English speaking territories they are known as class K (kitchen or kitchen) fires.

      Although technically it could correspond to those of class B, this class was created seeing that the behavior of the flames and the type of elements that can be used to extinguish are different (For example, it couldn’t be deactivated with carbon dioxide). To extinguish, usually use fire extinguishers with certain specific components.

      Class E.

      Although technically it is not generally considered to be a separate type of fire from the previous ones, but each case would be included in the type of fuel that corresponds, sometimes it has been spoken of the type of fire of class I. This classification would include mainly the flames produced by alterations linked to elements which function or through which electricity circulates. The reason for its non-consideration as a real class is the fact that at the bottom what is burned are some components that belong to the previous classes. Extinguishing them requires carbon dioxide extinguishers, never water.

      Bibliographical references:

      • General Directorate of Civil Protection and Emergencies. (2013). First aid manual in case of fire using portable extinguishers and equipped hydrants. General technical secretariat. Ministry of the Interior. Madrid, Spain.

      Leave a Comment